Nearly Half Of All Patients Who Quit Opioid Drugs For Six Months Resume Some Time After

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Nearly Half Of All Patients Who Quit Opioid Drugs For Six Months Resume Some Time After

A recent study from researchers at Magellan Health in Scottsdale reveals that about 48% of all patients who stop taking opioids for six months would inevitably resume use at some point after. Also, substantial number begin their habit through the use of prescription painkillers.

This finding offers yet another reason why doctors should be cautious when prescribing opioid drugs to patients – moreover, a significant percentage will continue to use them and often try to increase their doses.

For the study, researchers examined medical and pharmacy records from 2009 to 2012 for 2.5 million patients. The subjects were 20-64 years of age from across the country and were all members of a commercial health plan.

The patients who are most likely to continue using are those who suffer from back pain, headaches, substance use disorders, depressive and anxiety disorders, and sleep-wake disorders. Of course, not all patients with these conditions will continue using opioids, but they are a higher risk, so physicians should take note.

They also found that patients who underwent certain treatments were at a heightened risk, compared to others. These persons included those who received treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues, had visited emergency departments, had been given anesthesia, or had some type of surgery

Researchers also determined that 80% of patients who obtained an opioid prescription did not get a refill. Among those who received at least two prescription and a stable dose over three months, 14 percent went on to obtain addiction prescriptions and increase dosage over the next year-and-a-half. Twelve-percent remained the same, and nearly three-quarters took less.

However, the results were bleaker when patients received at least two prescriptions and a high of more than 120 mg over an initial three months – 56%more than half remained at that level for eighteen months.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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